Two teams of scientists used virtual reality goggles to con the brain into thinking the body was located elsewhere. The visual illusion plus the feel of their real bodies being touched made volunteers sense that they had moved outside of their physical bodies. In the Swiss experiments, the researchers asked volunteers to stand in front of a camera while wearing video-display goggles. Through these goggles, the volunteers could see a camera view of their own back - a three-dimensional "virtual own body" that appeared to be standing in front of them. When the researchers stroked the back of the volunteer with a pen, the volunteer could see their virtual back being stroked either simultaneously or with a time lag.
The volunteers reported that the sensation seemed to be caused by the pen on their virtual back, rather than their real back, making them feel as if the virtual body was their own rather than a hologram. Researchers switched off the goggles, guided the volunteers back a few paces, and then asked them to walk back to where they had been standing, the volunteers overshot the target, returning nearer to the position of their "virtual self". Dr. Henrik Ehrsson, who led the UCL research, found volunteers had a physiological response - increased skin sweating - when they felt their virtual self was being threatened - appearing to be hit with a hammer.
What does it all mean?